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Lake District History
Lakeland- A Personal Journey
Lakeland- A Personal Journey
'I don't know any tract of land in which in so narrow a compass may be found an equal variety of sublime and beautiful features'. So said the poet Wordsworth of England's Lake District, an area as rich in cultural associations as it is in beautiful scenery. Hunter Davies, who has spent every summer in the Lake District for nearly half a century, takes the reader on an engaging, informative and affectionate tour of the lakes, fells, traditions, denizens and history of England's most popular tourist destination.
From the first discovery of Lakeland as a tourist destination in the 18th century, to the tale of the Maid of Buttermere, to the poet Coleridge's ascent of Scafell Pike in 1802, to such enduring local traditions as Cumberland wrestling and hound trailing, Hunter Davies brings England's Lake District memorably and informatively to life.
Head of Zeus
Black and White, some colour
Of course, Hunter Davies has fans all over the world. In this, his latest book on the Lakes, he reproduces the kind words of one Washington correspondent: "Thank you for your inscribed copy of The Good Guide to the Lakes. It is a wonderful reminder of a beautiful site, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness."
It is one of many mementoes treasured by the eighty-year old biographer of Wainwright, Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter, Eddie Stobart and many things Cumbrian.
And there are memories. He was walking back from Keswick with his girlfriend Margaret Forster - she was still in Carlisle High School. They'd spent a day sun-bathing on Friar's Crag and missed the bus. Hunter said, " 'I can't go on. I must rest.' . . . So we lay down on what we thought was a remarkably comfy spot - till we discovered we had disturbed an old tramp asleep on a pile of blankets." There is also Caitlin's Tree on Crummock Water where they said goodbye to their daughter when she went to live in Botswana.
They are memories of half a lifetime in the Lakes. The Davies family spent six months of every summer in Lorton. His two favourite views are from the windows of his house in Loweswater.
Few people can have travelled the Lakes so extensively, not just walking the fells and circumambulating the lakes, but visiting the towns and the villages, talking to people and noticing the interesting and idiosyncratic.
The old drain pipes in Tullie House are a work of art in themselves. That "ghastly, ghostly, loud creaking sound of ancient hinges being forced apart" which he heard when he opened the case in Keswick Museum to see the 500 year-old cat came from a concealed tape player.
He surveys the history of the Lakes - all those early visitors from Celia Fiennes, Daniel Defoe, Thomas Gray and William Gilpin - and he takes us on a breathless tour of all the highpoints and the nooks and crannies - the places few except the must-see-everything-sort-of-person ever visit. Devoke Water is "the dark one" surrounded by 400 "ancient cairns and hutments". Alcock Tarn was called Buttercrags until "Alcock dammed it and stocked it with trout". And he romps up Helvellyn visiting the three memorial stones - the one to Charles Gough and his dog called Foxey, and the others to Robert Dixon who followed the Patterdale Hounds over the fells and to John Leeming and Bert Hinkler who landed an Avro 585 Gosport on the summit on December 22 and managed to take off again.
Whitehaven is his favourite Lakeland town, but he also enjoys the villages like Hesket Newmarket, the birthplace of Eddie Stobart, the quaint stone house in Maulds Meaburn and the tourist haunts like Troutbeck and Glenridding.
And he knows his Wordsworth pursuing him to London, Dorset and France - where he fathered an illegitimate daughter - and returning to the Lakes where he was door-steeped by a German tourist called Philip Kempferhausen who observed that he has "the most powerful smile I ever saw".
This book is a companionable stroll through Lakeland. Hunter is by terms affable, serious, anecdotal, curious and amusing and incredibly well-informed. A wealth of information and years of accumulated affection and knowledge are carried along on a stream of friendly chatter.
He is the perfect companion for everyone who knows the Lakes, including that fan in Washington. Hunter cross-examined her and discovered she got engaged in Ennerdale. She might well send him another letter in January when she is back in the White House.
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